Blogger: Rachel Kent
I recently read Katherine Reay’s Dear Mr. Knightley. I really enjoyed the book and wanted to read it again immediately when I got to the end. I didn’t have the time to reread it because I let my good friend borrow it, and she’s had it for a couple of months. I’m feeling the separation, and I look forward to rereading the book when she returns it to me!
The author (and publisher?) did a really interesting thing with this story. She added Jane Austen references (and quotes from other classics) in the title and throughout the book to draw in the 20-to-30-something audience. The basic plot does not need Jane Austen or Emma references. The book is the story of a young woman who grew up in foster care. She is able to go to journalism school because an benefactor agrees to pay for it if she writes him letters keeping him informed of her progress. The benefactor requests she call him Mr. Knightley in the letters because he desires to remain anonymous.
The book would likely have been lovely even without the quotes and special Jane Austen-y title, but would it have sold as well as this book is? I doubt it. Readers who are around my age are very interested in the Jane Austen-type stories–like Austenland by Shannon Hale–so we would immediately be attracted to this book because of the title.
Have you ever considered spicing up your story by adding references that would appeal to your readers? Perhaps a certain geographical location for your setting? Or quotes from a well-known movie or book? Or could you frame your story around a popular classic?
These types of hooks might be just what you need to catch a publisher’s or agent’s eye, too. It might give your story what it needs to sell. It is important to make sure your special hook fits naturally with your plot, and you want to be sure it’s a relatively timeless reference, too. Pop culture and technology change so quickly that your book could rapidly seem out-of-date if you use those types of references.
What type of special hook might appeal to your readers?
Can you think of other published stories that have used this technique?
One other book that comes to mind for me is Dreaming in Black & White by Laura Jenson Walker. The main character loves classic movies.